Tuesday, June 21, 2022

June 2022 Book Haul

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I got new books! Let's check them out and see what I'll be reading in the upcoming months. I've already read a few of them, so I'll review those.

June Book Haul

The Death Of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

Adult Literary Fiction

Raised by a distant father and an understanding but overprotective mother, Vivek suffers disorienting blackouts, moments of disconnection between self and surroundings. As adolescence gives way to adulthood, Vivek finds solace in friendships with the warm, boisterous daughters of the Nigerwives, foreign-born women married to Nigerian men.

But Vivek’s closest bond is with Osita, the worldly, high-spirited cousin whose teasing confidence masks a guarded private life. As their relationship deepens—and Osita struggles to understand Vivek’s escalating crisis—the mystery gives way to a heart-stopping act of violence in a moment of exhilarating freedom.

Why I'm excited to read it: It gets great reviews and was on tons of award lists right after it came out. I want to see what the hype is about.

Buy it on Amazon

The Tent by Margaret Atwood

Adult Literary Short Story / Essay Collection

In pieces ranging in length from a mere paragraph to several pages, Atwood gives a sly pep talk to the ambitious young; writes about the disconcerting experience of looking at old photos of ourselves; gives us Horatio's real views on Hamlet; and examines the boons and banes of orphanhood. Bring Back Mom: An Invocation; explores what life was really like for the "perfect" homemakers of days gone by, and in The Animals Reject Their Names she runs history backward, with surprising results.

Why I'm excited to read it: I'm on a quest to read all of Margaret Atwood's fiction and poetry. This book is next on my list. According to reviewers, it's not one of Atwood's better books. If you're interested in her work, please start with The Handmaid's Tale. That's what got me hooked.

Buy it on Amazon

The Devil In The White City: Murder, Magic, And Madness At The Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson

Adult History Nonfiction

Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book's categorization to be sure that 'The Devil in the White City' is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor.

Burnham's challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous "White City" around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair's incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, and Thomas Edison.

The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World's Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims.

Why I'm excited to read it: I love history. I love true crime. I love award-winning books. This seems perfect for me!

Buy it on Amazon

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Adult Historical Fiction

Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a noblewoman, is with child again. None of her previous pregnancies have borne fruit, and her husband, Richard, is anxious for an heir. Then Fleetwood discovers a hidden doctor’s letter that carries a dire prediction: she will not survive another birth. By chance she meets a midwife named Alice Grey, who promises to help her deliver a healthy baby. But Alice soon stands accused of witchcraft.

Is there more to Alice than meets the eye? Fleetwood must risk everything to prove her innocence. As the two women’s lives become intertwined, the Witch Trials of 1612 loom. Time is running out; both their lives are at stake. Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

My review: I'm honestly not sure what to think about this book. Is it well-written? Yes. Is it atmospheric? Yes. Was I entertained? Heck, yeah. I think my issue is that I've read too many historical fiction books that are similar to this one. Woman-accused-of-something-ridiculous is a common theme in historical fiction. As soon as I finished this book, it faded from my mind and blended with all the others I've read. That sucks because it's a thought-provoking novel! I would have adored it if I hadn't read so many others.

I love that the story focuses on female friendship. The main character and her midwife slowly learn to trust each other and build a relationship that goes deeper than employer/employee. It shows that teamwork is the only way to defeat oppression. You won't get far in life if you try to beat an unfair system by yourself.

If you're new to historical fiction, then this is an excellent place to start. The plot is entertaining and not too dense or bogged down in boring historical details. If you love historical fiction as much as I do, then you might feel a bit "meh" about this book. It gets lost in the crowd.

Buy it on Amazon

The School For Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

Adult Science Fiction / Dystopia

Frida Liu is struggling. She doesn’t have a career worthy of her Chinese immigrant parents’ sacrifices. What’s worse is she can’t persuade her husband, Gust, to give up his wellness-obsessed younger mistress. Only with their angelic daughter Harriet does Frida finally feel she’s attained the perfection expected of her. Harriet may be all she has, but she’s just enough.

Until Frida has a horrible day.

The state has its eyes on mothers like Frida—ones who check their phones while their kids are on the playground; who let their children walk home alone; in other words, mothers who only have one lapse of judgement. Now, a host of government officials will determine if Frida is a candidate for a Big Brother-like institution that measures the success or failure of a mother’s devotion. Faced with the possibility of losing Harriet, Frida must prove that she can live up to the standards set for mothers—that she can learn to be good.

My review: This is a new release that caught my attention because it's being called "The Handmaid's Tale for mothers." That's a valid comparison. The Handmaid's Tale has better writing, but there is a lot of overlap in the themes. Both books are about the cruelty that women face because of unfair laws and the judgmental behavior of other women.

This story raises a lot of interesting questions. Frida is not a likeable character. She doesn't always make good parenting decisions, but she loves her child more than anything in the world. It makes you wonder what "good mother" means and who gets to decide. Frida is the child of Chinese immigrants who had a different parenting style than the white, middle-class parents in their neighborhood. Frida has problems, but she survived, so are her parents good or bad?

The book also raises questions about punishment. Frida messed up and (probably) deserves to be punished, but when does the punishment become worse than the crime? Should her daughter be taken away forever? Will that do more harm than good?

I love the ethical questions that this book examines, but I was less thrilled with the plot and writing style. The plot gets repetitive, and the writing style puts a lot of distance between the characters and the reader. I never truly cared about Frida, and sometimes she gets lost in the crowd when the author drifts away from her to focus on other characters. None of the characters felt fully developed to me.

I still think this book is worth reading. It's entertaining and captures the pressure that women feel to live up to the "perfect mother" stereotype.

Buy it on Amazon

Sundial by Catriona Ward

Adult Horror

You can't escape the desert. You can't escape Sundial.

Rob fears for her daughters. For Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. For Annie, because she fears what Callie might do to her. Rob sees a darkness in Callie, one that reminds her of the family she left behind. She decides to take Callie back to her childhood home, to Sundial, deep in the Mojave Desert. And there she will have to make a terrible choice.

Callie is afraid of her mother. Rob has begun to look at her strangely. To tell her secrets about her past that both disturb and excite her. And Callie is beginning to wonder if only one of them will leave Sundial alive.

Why I'm excited to read it: I can't resist a horror book that's set in the desert! Deserts are fascinating. And creepy. I'd love to live in one someday. According to Goodreads, this book is supposed to be disturbing and full of twists.

All Of Us Villains by Amanda Foody & Christine Lynn Herman

Young Adult Fantasy

The Blood Moon rises. The Blood Veil falls. The Tournament begins.

Every generation, at the coming of the Blood Moon, seven families in the remote city of Ilvernath each name a champion to compete in a tournament to the death.

The prize? Exclusive control over a secret wellspring of high magick, the most powerful resource in the world—one thought long depleted.

This year, thanks to a salacious tell-all book, the seven champions are thrust into worldwide spotlight, granting each of them new information, new means to win, and most importantly: a choice. Accept their fate or rewrite their story.

But this is a story that must be penned in blood.

Why I'm excited to read it: I'm a bit nervous about this one. I've never read a book by Amanda Foody, and I've never been able to finish a book by Christine Lynn Herman. But, I can't pass up a story about evil characters! According to reviewers, everybody in this novel is a bad guy. That's my kind of novel.

Buy it on Amazon

The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron

Adult Historical Fiction

Forty thousand years in the past, the last family of Neanderthals roams the earth. Girl, the oldest daughter, is coming of age and her family is determined to travel to the meeting place to find her a mate. But the unforgiving landscape takes its toll, and Girl is left alone to care for Runt, a foundling. As Girl and Runt face the coming winter, Girl realizes she has one chance to save her people, at great cost to herself.

In the present, archaeologist Rosamund Gale works well into her pregnancy, racing to excavate newly found Neanderthal artifacts before her baby arrives. Linked across the ages by the shared experience of birth and early motherhood, and inspired by the recent discovery that many modern humans have inherited DNA from Neanderthals, Girl's story and Rosamund's story examines the often taboo corners of women's lives.

Why I'm excited to read it: Neanderthals are cool, and we need more books about them! Recommend all the Neanderthal books to me. I don't care if they're fiction or nonfiction.

Buy it on Amazon

Aru Shah And The End Of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Middle Grade Fantasy

Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she'll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?

One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru's doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don't believe her claim that the museum's Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.

But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it's up to Aru to save them.

The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?

Why I'm excited to read it: This series gets so much love from adult and child readers. I'm getting Percy Jackson vibes from the summary. I'm excited to see what the hype is about.

Buy it on Amazon

The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight To Win The Vote by Elaine F. Weiss

Adult History Nonfiction

Nashville, August 1920. Thirty-five states have ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, twelve have rejected or refused to vote, and one last state is needed. It all comes down to Tennessee, the moment of truth for the suffragists, after a seven-decade crusade. The opposing forces include politicians with careers at stake, liquor companies, railroad magnates, and a lot of racists who don't want black women voting. And then there are the 'Antis'—women who oppose their own enfranchisement, fearing suffrage will bring about the moral collapse of the nation. They all converge in a boiling hot summer for a vicious face-off replete with dirty tricks, betrayals and bribes, bigotry, Jack Daniel's, and the Bible.

Why I'm excited to read it: My American history education in school wasn't the greatest. I'm trying to fill the gaps.

Buy it on Amazon

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?


  1. The Devil in the White City sounds super interesting. Perfect mix of true crime + historical. I love the cover of Aru Shah. I didn't realize that Chokshi also wrote middle grade.

  2. I hope these live up to your expectations

  3. The Devil in the White City is one of my favorites!

  4. All these sound amazing. I hope you enjoy them all!

  5. Yes I read The Last Neanderthal which I enjoyed. Who doesn't like a good Neanderthal tale?!

  6. The Devil in the White City scared me! It was so good though. And I am definitely adding Sundial to my list!

  7. Oh, The Death of Vivek Oji is so good!

  8. "The Devil in the White City" is an incredible book--it got me into reading much of what Larson has written.

  9. I really enjoyed Sundail. The Devil in the White City & Aru Shah are on my tbr as well.